Foot and Mouth ruins summer sport
By David Markham
Imagine spending all winter preparing your ground for the new cricket season and then not being able to play on it.
That was the fate suffered by two clubs on opposite hill tops a few miles from Bradford city centre during last year's foot and mouth crisis.
The grounds of Denholme Clough and Eldwick and Gilstead, both members of the Bradford Central League, are roughly 1,000 feet above sea level and were ruled 'out of bounds' because they adjoined farmers' fields in an affected zone.
It was a frustrating period for everyone, but the playing areas were not significantly affected.
In Denholme Clough's case, the farmer ruled that no one could cross his land to get to the cricket field.
Then, Bradford Council's environmental department ruled that the cricket club members could cross the farmer's land provided they used disinfectant every time they entered the playing area.
But the players couldn't see the point of using disinfectant every time the ball went out of the ground and they decided to play all their matches away from home, the first team on Saturdays, the second team on Sundays.
That arrangement applied for the first ten matches of the season before they negotiated again and at last gained access to the ground.
Denholme Clough Groundsman Andrew Peacock said: "I was allowed on to the ground to look after the square providing I used disinfectant, but I couldn't cut the outfield. The grass grew to a height of about two feet and it took some getting down. We had to get some outside help with that.
"We did all our normal winter work, re-seeding, spiking, scarifying and top dressing. Now, we are preparing for the new season on April 20."
Eldwick and Gilstead secretary and Groundsman Gavin Clarke said: "We were badly affected. We played the last seven games on our own ground, but up to then we had played all our first and second team away from home, the first team on Saturdays, the second team on Sundays.
"The problem was that three sides of our ground were surrounded by farmers' fields affected by foot and mouth regulations and so there was a difficulty in getting the balls back when they were hit into one of those affected fields. Then, towards the end of the season we got the all-clear from the environmental health authorities.
"Moss is not generally a problem at our ground. Fortunately, moss is only on the under-13s wicket, but we have got to get rid of it.
"We re-seeded, scarified and spiked the square at the end of the season
The square is very good at the moment, but we have problems with drainage. The outfield is saturated and the neighbouring field is flooded.
We use a tractor with a mower, but at the moment that is too heavy to use. So we use a much lighter Massey Ferguson, the sort that people use in big gardens."